Protests against Tipu Jayanti celebrations sponsored by the state government broke out in several parts of Karnataka on Saturday even as Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and his deputy G Parameshwara skipped events organised to honour the 18th-century Muslim ruler.

Several groups staged protests in Madikeri in Kodagu district, reported ANI. The district administration stepped up security in Madikeri after the groups, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and Kodava organisations, called for a strike. Groups protesting against the celebrations offered prayers at the Sri Omkareshwara Temple in Madikeri. A few protestors were detained in Madikeri. BJP workers raised slogans at the office of the deputy commissioner of Kodagu district.

More than 1,500 police personnel have been deployed in Kodagu district and over 50 checkpoints have been set up in view of the protests, reported Firstpost.

“We have taken all precautionary measures,” said Deputy Commissioner of Coorg PI Srividya. “If somebody violates law [and] order the police will take strict action,” ANI quoted her as saying.

In Mangaluru, some protesters tried to enter zilla panchayat office, where celebrations were taking place, with black flags. The police detained them, The Indian Express reported. Protestors were also detained in Yellapura of Uttara Kannada district. Prohibitory orders have been imposed in most of the districts.

In Hubballi, the police detained BJP workers led by parliamentarian Prahlad Joshi as they were heading towards the Mini Vidhana Soudha, ANI reported. In Virajpet, the police detained BJP legislator and former Assembly Speaker KG Bopaiah.

Security was also stepped up in Chitradurga district and the state’s coastal regions. Around 500 police personnel were deployed around Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru and over 15,000 police personnel were posted across the city, PTI quoted Bengaluru Police Commissioner T Suneel Kumar as saying.

An insult to Muslims, claims Congress legislator

Meanwhile, Kumaraswamy skipped the celebrations, with reports suggesting that doctors have advised him to rest. “Tipu’s progressive measures in administration, his quest for innovation are commendable,” Kumaraswamy said in a statement earlier in the day. G Parameshwara, who was to replace Kumaraswamy, also gave the celebrations a miss, PTI reported.

“While Cong-JD(S) government is celebrating a tyrant Tipu, the CM himself goes into hiding, what is the point of celebrating a fanatic when CM himself abandons a government function,” BJP Karnataka tweeted. “Glorifying a mass murderer just for vote bank clearly shows mindset of this government.”

Congress MLA Tanveer Sait claimed that Kumaraswamy and Parameshwara’s absence from the celebrations “seems like an insult to the [Muslim] community”, ANI reported. “There is no doubt about it,” he added. However, Minister for Medical Education DK Shivakumar – who took part in the celebreations at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru – disagreed with Said and said their absence was not an insult.

Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar said it was surprising that the state government was celebrating the birth anniversary of a historical figure who is a “symbol of hatred”, ANI reported. “We want to ask Congress how the one who destroyed churches and temples, and killed thousands of Christians and Hindus, is praised in a government event?” the BJP leader asked.

A group of Muslim community leaders, accompanied by state minister Zammer Ahmed Khan, met former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and honoured him.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code were imposed in Kodagu district on Friday. The orders will remain in force from 6 pm on Friday till 6 am on Sunday. The orders will be in place Hubbali and Dharwad cities from 6 am on Saturday to 7 am on Sunday. In Srirangapatna, the restrictions will be in force from 6 pm on Friday till 6 am on Sunday.

BJP’s District Secretary Sajjal Krishnan told ANI that the government was wasting money by organising the celebrations. “Tipu is not a warrior, he killed so many Hindus [and] attacked temples,” he said. “Why are they glorifying a man like him? This is only vote bank politics. Everyone in Kodagu is opposing the celebrations.”

On Thursday, state BJP President BS Yeddyurappa had accused the government of trying to appease Muslims and urged the coalition government to cancel the events.

Tipu Jayanti was first celebrated in 2014, when the Congress was in power. It has been marked by protests every year since then. In 2015, Hindutva outfits clashed with Muslim groups that took out a rally in Kodagu district’s Madikeri town, according to The Indian Express. Two people died in the clashes.

Tipu Sultan ruled Mysuru in the 18th century. Hindutva groups have called him the “butcher of Hindus” while Mangalorean Christians have accused the government of whitewashing documented evidence that the Muslim ruler forcibly converted their ancestors to Islam and killed scores for resisting.